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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 February 2006, 14:44 GMT
Zimbabwe furore over loincloths
By Steve Vickers
BBC News, Harare

Tafadzwanashe (r) and Tapiwanashe (l) Fichani wearing loincloths
The twins also shunned chairs and beds and sat and slept on the floor (Photo: The Zimbabwe Herald)
Twin Zimbabwean brothers arrested for wearing loincloths have agreed to end their shocking campaign for traditional dress and wear shirts and shorts.

Tafadzwanashe and Tapiwanashe Fichani were charged with indecent exposure after walking around in goatskin kilts, which left their buttocks exposed.

They spent two weeks in prison, where their mental states were evaluated.

The much-publicised case has reignited the debate over traditional versus western dress in Zimbabwe.

The brothers were arrested while wearing the nhembe loincloths on their daily walk to a shopping centre near their home in an upmarket suburb of the capital, Harare.

'Mentally colonised'

Since their release, their father has been shielding them from the media.

But prior to their arrest, the 22-year-olds said that they had received a calling from God to give up their western clothing when they were living in the UK.

If human nature developed from apes, so there's development in life
Man in Harare
They had spent two years studying there, but left after Tafadzwanashe was arrested on fraud allegations and deported.

The brothers said that those who look down on them for their decision were "mentally colonised", as they were just going back to how things were before Europeans arrived in Africa.

The twins also shunned chairs and beds and sat and slept only on the floor.

'Disgraceful'

They have reignited a debate about the place of traditional dress, but not many people in the capital are on their side.

"What they did is very disgraceful, especially to the parents," one man said.

"If human nature developed from apes, so there's development in life. So they should appreciate the development of clothes," he added.

Another woman said she thought their move was "stupid".

"I think we're advanced. We can't wear those things," she said.

After their stay in prison, the public prosecutor says that it was concluded that they are not mentally disturbed.

However, they were only allowed out on free bail after agreeing to wear everyday clothes.

They left prison wearing shirts and shorts, seemingly having lost their battle, but having caught the attention of the nation.


Is there anything wrong with exposing your buttocks in public, whether or not you are in traditional dress? Do you think people in Africa should return to more traditional attire, or are the alternatives more practical? Do you agree with the twins that those who wear Western clothes are "mentally colonised"?


This debate is now closed. Thank you for your contributions.

A selection of these views were broadcast on the BBC's Focus on Africa programme on Saturday 4 February.

In as much as we want to maintain African culture, we do not the ones that are not good. We have moved ahead from the ape or stone age. We are moving ahead with other continents, not copying the West. Sighting people in this way is very disturbing. Please my brothers change your dressing mode.
John Ene, Lagos Nigeria.

I believe these two brothers did a great job. Africa has it own cultures, and there was no need to arrest them. They are practising their cultures. Do not be ashamed of your own cultures.
Abe Magong, Sudan

If men can be arrested on charges of indecent exposure for wearing loincloths that exposes their buttocks, how do we then justify the wearing of "tight-western clothes" by women that virtually exposes sensitive parts of womanhood likely to turn men on? Isn't that also an indecent exposure in itself? If women are free to wear what they please, why can't men do the same?
larkai, Accra, Ghana

Human development is a dynamic process. New developments world-wide are an improvement upon an old system. As Africans, we have also developed and improved upon our past. This is evident in the beautiful 'African dresses' we see around - the traditional attire. To go back to animal skins is not only cruel to the poor animals but 'counter development' in this 21st century.
Kwasi Appeaing Addo, UK

I think one should adopt an attitude of 'each to his own'. Really if these boys want to wear loincloth so be it. I will still be eating sadza tonight. There are a few programmes on the old goggle box showing people in modern Europe walking about naked. It's caused controversy without a doubt, but life goes on.
Edson Mukundwi, Sheffield England

I do not see anything wrong; these boys were just practising their African culture. We Africans must not be ashamed of our own culture. We must be proud of it since our great great grand parents used to wear animal skins.
Charles T.J.S. Banda, Lilongwe, Malawi

I do not think exposing ones buttocks is indecent exposure. If that were the case then all the supermodels should be arrested as they walk virtually naked in fashion shows that are televised all over the world. Culture should be respected too.
RK, USA

This is pure madness. They should also stop eating western food and eat things harvested with stones.
TK Dzimega, London, UK

I see no reason for forcing these guys to wear western clothes. As a matter of fact people in the Zimbabwean village of Binga wear their traditional dress daily. Why don't the authorities make noise about these people? Again this shows how far people in Harare have succumbed to mental colonisation where they think anything African is inferior.
Wilberforce Majaji, Zimbabwean in Michigan USA

Recently in Virginia, a young man was acquitted of the charge of indecent exposure for baring his buttocks (or "mooning" as it is called here). The judge's reason for acquitting him was that if what he did was a crime then all the women who wear thongs (G-String) on the beach must be arrested. We Africans have become so mentally colonized that we frown on our own culture. These brothers must be commended not castigated.
Kobina Markin, Maryland, USA

Kwasi Appeaing Addo, your comment is interesting. I trust you are a vegetarian yourself. Don't mix animal rights with cultural rights. Those nhembe are made from skins from dead animals. It's a kind of economising since you use all parts of the already dead animal. What's wrong with eating the flesh and wearing the skin if that's you taste? It's not like fur where they kill just for the skin! Africans and anyone else with a past, be yourself, don't blindly imitate the values of others. Look at Sumo wrestlers - they are highly respected for keeping up their traditions and value. Sadza nema dora tinodya tichiguta. To each his own.
Chido, Zimbabwean in Japan

I'm really ashamed of this type of dressing in Africa. We are now in a civilised world and we are supposed to follow up the current attires and stop drawing back our future to nothing. The two brothers have tarnished the image of their country.
Mr Paul Mowell, Anambra State Nigeria

I think people of any country should wear clothes worn by their culture. Westerners should wear western clothes, Asians should wear Asian clothes and Africans should wear African clothes. I think Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe should show his anti-Western feelings by wearing a loincloth. Lead by example Mugs.
Yogs, USA

Africans should not feel that wearing jackets and ties is a mark of subjection to Colonialism; I don't think Japanese, Chinese, Indian and Indonesian businessmen and women need revert to kimonos, cheong-sams, dhotis and sarongs to prove their freedom. Rather than regard the suit, the shirt and the shorts as 'Western' dress, people the world over wear 'universal' dress. They wear such clothing to demonstrate that they are modern and connected with the world economy. For a Zimbabwean to revert to wearing the loincloth of 100 years ago is as absurd as it would be for a contemporary Welshman to walk around wearing nothing but woad (blue paint), and then claim that this is the traditional dress he would have worn before Roman and Anglo-Saxon colonialism.
Patrick Willis, London, UK

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SEE ALSO:
What is an African dress code?
01 Mar 04 |  Africa


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